Sunday, June 1, 2008

Food Prices Predicted to Ease Before Entering Steady Climb

PARIS, May 29 -- The recent steep jump in global food prices should ease in the near term, according to a new report, but prices over the next decade are likely to remain high, spurred by the rising cost of oil, the declining dollar and increasing demand for biofuels.

The rush to invest heavily in ethanol and other biofuels needs to be reevaluated, particularly since the benefits "are at best modest, and sometimes even negative," according to the annual global agriculture assessment by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

About 33 percent of the expected rise in food prices over the next decade can be tied to biofuels, OECD agriculture official Loek Boonekamp said, but the economic, environmental and energy-security benefits of diverting agriculture products to fuel "are probably smaller than commonly expected."

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría told reporters in releasing the 72-page report that "we do not expect the current price levels to last" but that "the average of most agricultural commodity prices over the next 10 years will still exceed the average of the previous decade by about 10 to 50 percent in real terms, depending on the commodity you look at."

One reason for the spike in food prices is temporary weather anomalies, such as droughts in wheat-producing regions. But other changes affecting prices are more lasting, such as population increases, demand for biofuels and changes in food consumption patterns as rising income in developing nations such as China and India push people away from traditional staples such as rice toward meat and dairy products typically consumed by the more affluent.

Overlaying these issues, the report says, are complex, constantly changing variables, particularly the downward slide of the dollar and the rising price of oil, which is used in producing and transporting food. And a key unknown is what impact climate change could have on future food production, the report says.

Gurría said higher investment in research and development, technology transfers to less-developed countries and the use of genetically modified seeds could increase agriculture output, lowering prices.

"Today, around 862 million people are suffering from hunger and malnourishment -- this highlights the need to reinvest in agriculture," said Jacques Diouf, director-general of the FAO.

While higher prices help people who produce food, "the poor, and in particular the urban poor in net food importing countries, will suffer more," the report said. "In many low-income countries, food expenditures average over 50 percent of income and the higher prices . . . will push more people into undernourishment."

In such countries, "rising food prices mean an erosion of the capacity to meet basic needs, and this is likely to become a potential source of political tension and even violence," the report said. Escalating food prices have already touched off riots in some countries.

Food prices in the past year have risen more than 20 percent in China, Kenya and Sri Lanka; more than 18 percent in Botswana and Pakistan; and 11 to 14 percent in Indonesia, South Africa, Egypt, Haiti and Bangladesh, according to the report.

No country has been immune. In the past year, the report says, the price of butter was up 50 percent in Poland, 40 percent in France and 36 percent in Jordan. Eggs rose 34 percent in the United States and 30 percent in Britain. The price of vegetable oil -- a key commodity in diets in developing countries -- rose 47 percent in Botswana and 18 percent in India. Meat prices jumped 45 percent in China.

The report predicts prices will continue their climb, on an average basis, in the coming decade. When the average for 2008 to 2017 is compared with the 1998 to 2007 period, beef and pork prices could be about 20 percent higher, raw and white sugar about 30 percent; wheat, corn and skim milk powder 40 to 60 percent; butter and oilseeds more than 60 percent; and vegetable oils more than 80 percent, the report says.

The report estimates the cost of oil at $90 a barrel this year and next, gradually rising to $104 a barrel in 2017. The projections illustrate the difficulty in working with such a moving target, because in fact, speculation has driven the price of oil as high as $135 a barrel in recent weeks. Some analysts predict the price will fall to $80 a barrel next year, while others forecast prices of $225 or more by 2012.

FAO economist Merritt Cluff said food prices in the report would be even higher "if we were able to redo the models" based on current oil prices.

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The Coming Energy Wars

Oil prices could hit $200 a barrel in the next few months. How the spike changes everything.

Jeff Pachoud / AFP-Getty Images

This spring, America hit a historic point. With average gas prices per gallon edging toward $4, America's notoriously profligate ways started to change fast. Americans are driving less, using mass transit more, buying fewer gas guzzlers, indeed shopping less wantonly in general, and lowering their previously unshakable confidence as consumers. Suddenly, Americans are acting differently; if not exactly like Swedes, then not quite like themselves, either. It's a shift that could change the world.

And there are more changes to come. So far the price shock has triggered the most obvious consumer shifts in the United States. Europeans, already greener, are also are buffered by a stronger currency, and Asians are protected from the spiking price of oil by subsidies that control the impact on gas prices at the pump. But if oil prices continue to rise, and the subsidy dam breaks, as seems likely, the energy revolution now transforming America will spread. "We sailed through $80 a barrel," notes energy authority Daniel Yergin, author of "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power" and chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "But that doesn't mean we'll sail through $200 a barrel. That sort of price would have enormous global consequences."

A year ago no one was talking about $200 oil, and now everyone in the markets is, for scary reasons. Oil prices climbed from $10 in 1999 to $95 last year without slowing the surging world economy, in large part because the markets believed the spike was at core driven by rising demand, particularly from India and China, which feeds growth. There was concern over supply, too, but nothing like the tumult prompted by the stranglehold OPEC imposed on the world in the 1970s, at least not until recent months. As the per-barrel price climbed over the last few months, with futures reaching $135 last week, the consensus began shifting to a new more gloomy view: that not only would long-term demand, led by China and India, continue to grow, but that the supply threats, including increasing conflict, falling investment, industry bottlenecks and downward estimates of big field reserves in major oil states—aren't going away any time soon. Now many (though not all) serious people take $200 oil—and the prospect of another '70s-style oil shock—seriously. Goldman Sachs warned that the $200 barrier could be hit within the next six to 24 months.

That's way too fast for comfort (or should be) even for those who welcome high gas prices as a way to induce energy conservation and fight global warming. Already skyrocketing oil prices are causing real pain for ordinary people, threatening global economic growth, and reviving the specter of inflation. The price pressure is now particularly acute in big emerging markets like China and India, which in recent years had become paragons of fiscal responsibility that tended to dampen global inflation by exporting cheap goods and services. Now they threaten to become exporters of inflation, particularly if energy price controls give way. Americans now making up for their losses at the gas pump by flocking to Wal-Mart for cheap Chinese goods would be out of luck. Make no mistake: $200 oil in 2009 would be a painful shock, not just a green tax on gas guzzlers.

Oil drives so much of the global economy, it's almost impossible to fully imagine the world of $200 oil. No question, the shock will force nations to go greener much faster than now, particularly by conserving energy and developing and adopting new non-fossil fuels. But none of this can happen full stop in six to 24 months. So the predictions tend to be gloomy: some analysts see a shift toward regional trade, and even a major reversal of globalization itself, as rising transport costs make it too expensive to ship many kinds of goods long distances. A major acceleration in the transfer of wealth that has, in the past five years, shifted trillions of petrodollars from oil consumers to producers would alter the world balance of power—including a boost for the troublesome oil autocrats of Iran, Venezuela and Russia. At $200 a barrel the proven oil reserves of the six Gulf nations alone would rise in value to $95 trillion, about twice the size of public equity markets, according to Morgan Stanley managing director Stephen Jen. That would make the Sovereign Wealth Funds of oil states market kingmakers. Western efforts to press more openness on these funds, many controlled by royal courts, would surely grow.

While some optimists believe the windfall could bring the Middle East into the modern world if it's smartly invested, that's a big if. Already many small states are struggling to wisely invest their oil windfall to date, and the corrupting curse of oil wealth is well known. Michael L. Ross, associate professor of political science at UCLA, notes that the percentage of the world's wars that take place in oil states is growing. The number of oil states is also rising—with Cambodia, East Timor and others joining the ranks—with more likely to follow as prices climb. Many of these newcomers are small, and ill equipped to cope with the corruption that often wastes the windfall.

No industry will be unaffected. Any company that moves goods or people needs oil. At $200 oil could make the long-predicted death of Detroit, or at least one of its Big Three, a reality. Airlines are vulnerable too. Skyrocketing jet fuel prompted American to announce it would cut flights due to the grounding of numerous older, less fuel-efficient planes. Air France-KLM recently warned that profits are likely to fall by a third this year, and CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta suggests $200 oil would represent a far bigger shock than 9/11 or the SARS epidemic of 2003, which sent the airline industry into a tailspin. "It's more than a change, it's a revolution, a new industry, in fact," says Spinetta. "We would have a lot of bankruptcies very rapidly in Europe, the U.S., and Asia. And there will be restructuring of networks, cutting routes, cutting capacities." The effect of mergers and cutbacks may leave smaller cities from Tuscany to the American Midwest with ghost airports.

The oil-induced depression of the American consumer may be a harbinger of what's to come elsewhere. In the United States, consumer confidence is now at a 15-year low. Energy Department data show that $4-a-gallon gas is finally forcing Americans to cut back on driving; this year gas consumption in the country is expected to drop for the first time since 1991. No amount of "fiscal stimulus" looks likely to help: Citibank estimates that even if prices merely stay as they are, the year-on-year increase in the U.S. consumer-gas bill will siphon away the bulk of the $120 billion in expected tax rebates. As food and gas prices go up, spending on everything else will go down. No wonder big-box stores like Wal-Mart are having record quarters, and middle-market chains are suffering.

Expect these trends to hit Europe soon, too. Germans are actually beginning to slow down on the autobahn to save fuel, which has risen in price from 0.92 to 1.53 euros per liter since 2000 (a 66 percent increase). Analysts say that the more Europeans spend on gas, the less they will spend on furniture, clothing and white goods. Indeed sales in all those categories are already down. "It's going to feel like a global recession inside many companies," notes Citibank European equities economist Richard Reid. "We expect an increase in corporate failures, and a lot of M&A. You might well see flush emerging-markets firms [think Tata] swooping in to buy up ailing Western firms on the cheap."

With oil futures up 40 percent in just the last two months, the sense of an accelerating shock is already palpable in the United States. While American automakers were moving slowly toward smaller cars before the spike, sales of SUVs and pickups are now falling so fast, they appear to be caught flat-footed. "At $200, GM tanks," says energy expert Philip Verleger. "They just don't have time to fix their fleet." Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, warning two weeks ago that he no longer expects a return to profitability in 2009, said he believes the gas-price shift is permanent. Ford has slashed production of its F-series pickup trucks, an American best seller for 20 years. Meanwhile, Nissan unveiled a $115 million new plant outside Tokyo designed to build lithium-ion fuel cells to power a new generation of battery cars.

The individual decisions about what we'll drive, how often we'll fly and whether we'll upgrade our televisions as quickly are only part of the larger macroeconomic threat of higher oil prices. The threat has yet to be officially tallied; major financial institutions like Morgan Stanley have only just begun to seriously discuss the potential downgrades to the global economy should $200 oil become a reality. But already, it's clear that oil is catalyzing the threat of inflation in rich countries as well as poor. Inflation looks likely to be about 5 percent in the United States this summer, and about 3 percent in Europe. But in emerging economies, double-digit inflation could become the norm. "In America, it will feel like the opposite of the 1990s," says Morgan Stanley chief U.S. economist Richard Berner. "But if you think things won't be pleasant for industrial nations, think about developing economies, where people spend 50 percent of their income on food and fuel."

Indeed, there's concern that as higher oil prices force many Asian economies to reduce or even cut their generous fuel subsidies, growth will slow sharply, and there could be social unrest as the world's poorest become more desperate. The political ramifications of this (which already include moves away from free trade), combined with the ever-rising costs of doing business as usual, could force a retrenchment from globalization. "It's a harbinger of the reversal of globalization," says Jeff Rubin, chief economist for CIBC World Markets. "At $200 a barrel, you'll see transport costs rise so much that they will effectively reverse the trade liberalization of the last 30 years." He predicts that world trade will realign itself regionally, so that while Japan may continue to ship in goods from China, the United States will increasingly import from Latin America. "If you look at the period from 1973 to 1979 [when oil spiked] you'll find the same thing happened," he notes. "The share of imports to the U.S. from Latin America and the Caribbean rose by 6 percentage points. That was all about freight costs."

Regionalism won't stop at trade. There will be new financial and service hubs in energy-rich areas like Russia, Latin America and the Gulf. Sovereign Wealth Funds will continue to buy up big chunks of Western banks and blue-chip companies, as well as investing more broadly in a new range of countries and currencies (which is likely to make forex movements stronger and more unpredictable). The rise of the Sovereign Wealth Funds has already triggered a protectionist backlash, including U.S. moves to step up the vetting of foreign investors in American firms.

Worse conflicts are possible. "As areas like the Mideast and Africa, Russia and Venezuela continue to rise, you're going to see increasing energy greed, aggressive behaviors and neocolonial actions on the part of various countries," predicts Scott Nyquist, the head of McKinsey's energy practice. As Iran gets richer, Hizbullah might get stronger. China will clearly wield more might in Africa. Western ideas about civil society, the environment and women's rights could be displaced with new sets of values.

More blood will almost certainly be spilled. Oil wealth tends to wreak havoc on a nation's economy and politics, discouraging diversity, aggravating ethnic grievances and making it easier to fund insurgencies. Oil countries now host about a third of the world's civil wars, up from one fifth in 1992. "There's a vicious cycle, which you can see played out in places like Iraq and Nigeria, where conflict fuels higher prices, and higher prices in turn fuel conflict," says UCLA's Ross.

The lack of any spare capacity in the global pipeline makes it difficult to solve such situations with sanctions; taking any oil off the market would, at this point, merely ignite an already explosive situation. The megatrends fueling the global supply shortage tend to feed on one another. Higher prices fuel the growing tendency of oil states like Russia and Venezuela to re-nationalize fields. That often leads to lower output, due to the inefficiency of most state oil companies, notes Sanford Bernstein analyst Ben Dell. The publicly traded companies have to go where they can. As fields in peaceful places (Alaska, the North Sea) are tapped out, the hunt for new oil has moved into conflict zones (Nigeria and Angola) or geologically extreme territory (Siberia, the deep sea). And while higher prices are already driving down energy consumption in rich nations, that drop does not offset the booming demand in emerging markets.

Meanwhile, though numerous green technologies hold plenty of promise, none of them are going to save the day any time soon. "It's a false god," says Robin West, chairman of PFC Energy. "There will be step changes in technology, but people forget the scale of the oil business. Ethanol production was 5 billion gallons last year, with huge subsidies to farmers and rising food prices. But that's the size of one production platform off the coast of West Africa."

So, what's to be done? For starters, policy makers might stop grilling big oil companies about why prices are so high (since they now control only a small percent of known reserves, it's largely out of their hands), support smarter green initiatives (wind and solar credits rather than ethanol boondoggles) and stop pandering to voters with subsidies and gas-tax cuts that ignore the new reality—oil is a finite resource, more people want more of it, and the profligacy with which we've used it is going to change. "There's a fuel that's cheap, clean and readily available, and it's called conservation," says West. By some estimates, the world could save 25 percent of its oil usage with simple measures like driving the speed limit, turning off lights, and fully using the green technology we already have (hybrids, better insulation, etc, etc). While it's never been the inclination of rich nations—particularly America—to rein in consumption, it's a notion we'll undoubtedly become more comfortable with as energy prices rise. It happened in the 1970s. It will happen again—and if we're very lucky, it will become the important and lasting effect of $200 oil.

With Barrett Sheridan in New York, Keith Naughton in Detroit, Stefan Theil in Berlin, Michael Freedman in Paris and George Wehrfritz in Hong Kong

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Confessions of a rip-off artist

A former broker at one of the City's most notorious firms blows the whistle on how small investors are conned into buying worthless shares. Tony Levene reports

City boy: 'We were aggressive with our sales pitch and didn't give risk warnings if we could avoid it'. Photograph: Grant Smith/Rex Features

Pacific Continental Securities was possibly the UK's most notorious firm of stockbrokers. Its team of young salesmen used high-pressure tactics to lure clients into buying shares that for most investors were almost a guaranteed route to financial ruin.

After a wave of complaints, the Financial Services Authority finally banned the firm from taking on new business last year. Pacific Continental went bust shortly afterwards.

But as hapless investors lost their savings, the brokers raked it in.

Today a former broker at Pacific Continental reveals how he was encouraged to make false and misleading claims to sell shares - and warns that many of his former bosses and colleagues have now moved to other City firms. Innocent individuals, he claims, are still being plagued by the same high-pressure sales tactics used to sell ultra-risky stocks.

Let's call our whistle-blower John Hunter, although that's not his real name. He has asked us to change it because he has now made a fresh start in life outside of stockbroking. He hopes his story will warn investors to stand well clear of what he describes as "just-about-legal boiler rooms".

John's story

"I am not proud of my career at Pacific Continental. I caused innocent and trusting people to lose money.

But, and I know some will be sceptical about this, I feel conned myself.

When I left a temporary job in 2005, I wanted to work in the City. I knew I was not an automatic prospect.

I had left school at 17, skipped university and my only work experience was in a shop. But I was determined to succeed.

I sent off 60 letters to City firms and recruitment agencies. All ignored me, except Pacific Continental and one other. I opted for PacCon because the other company was so over-the-top, promising that I'd soon be driving a Ferrari. That was ridiculous.

Before I started at PacCon, I had to pass FSA papers in regulation and securities. They were easy to answer. At PacCon's Cannon Street offices, I was surrounded by young people - almost all male. Many were effectively barrow boys. We all thought we had made it as City stockbrokers.

There was no formal training. The way it worked was that four or five juniors would report to a desk head. I later learned my desk head had previously worked for a Barcelona boiler room. I was paid £18,000 a year plus commission. But desk heads earned a lot more. My job was to phone "leads". We got some from a "marketing company". If anyone asked, we would refer to some form they had filled in or some sort of market research they had helped with.

Under FSA rules, we were told to ask "know your customer" questions. These were designed, in theory, to weed out those for whom the small company stocks we sold were unsuitable.

We often asked questions in such a way the customers would give the answer we needed. We would encourage people to exaggerate their earnings and portfolio.

Few wanted to be thought of as "scared" of small company shares.

My desk head gave me a script which, he said, was "what you need to say under FSA regulations".

We were aggressive with our sales pitch and didn't give risk warnings if we could avoid it. I was encouraged to browbeat customers into a sale - in fact, it worked that anything was fine if it resulted in the punter buying. I was new to this and thought PacCon methods were normal. With commission, I earned £2,000 a month.

One stock I sold shares in was New Millennium Resources. It was listed on AIM and involved in mining in Angola. We were told to tell clients about the press releases this company put out, detailing its new diamond finds. It was a good story to sell - and I got rid of about £40,000 in this one - including £5,000 to an elderly lady.

Whenever any of us made a big sale, we'd shout, clap and cheer - even laugh if the customer had caved in for a big amount without a fight. Then we'd be praised in the office and taken out by the desk head - champagne and, for some, strip joints. And we'd move up a place on the sales board which recorded our success.

The real money was made by desk heads. They could earn up to £750,000 a year by "re-dealing" - selling more to the clients you had softened up. This might be another stock which was promised to replace the losses clients made in the original shares we pitched. They were the real power - the ostensible heads the FSA talked to used to just sit in their offices playing solitaire.

Calls were apparently recorded but there was no oversight and no one ever listened to them. If you were really outrageous, you'd get a verbal warning but it was seen as a joke.

In spring 2006, New Millennium was delisted from AIM and the shares I sold for up to 10p became effectively worthless - they were never sellable at a profit. I then started asking questions which did not make me popular - they told me to shut up and sell.

So how did we get the price up so high? It was through "stock supporters" - someone with an interest in the shares who would put out press releases and buy a few thousand shares. By spending perhaps £300, they would double the share price - if one person bought and no one sold, the value soared. Clients were never encouraged to sell; after all, we wanted to flog shares we'd bought from the promoters at a big discount to our asking price.

When the penny dropped after six months, I realised what we told clients was, charitably, very optimistic. More honestly, it was totally imaginary. I felt like total crap. I knew I had stolen from clients just like a mugger, but I was grabbing more than a mobile. I felt like a coward - I had never met my victims. I'm not specially moral but I was really shocked this was all legal.

Other than FSA approval and a City base, the firm was just like a boiler room. It was outrageous, but what is even more outrageous is how some ex-colleagues have set up lookalike firms. They know they are in the wrong - one even has a bodyguard in case angry punters pay to have him eliminated. All I can now say is sorry."

· Pacific Continental Securities (UK) went bust in June 2007. Insolvency practitioners Smith & Williamson sold the assets to Brooklands. PacCon was wound up in March 2008.

Investors who show mis-selling can now lodge claims with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (go to Claims could total £250m.

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5 things that are always on sale

Whether the purchase is as small as an earring or as big as a house, there are some items you should never pay full price for. Here's how to shop smartly.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

On many purchases, it's pretty easy to tell whether you're getting a good deal. Often it's as simple as consulting a shopping search engine, like MSN Shopping or Google Product Search (yup, looks like I paid too much for my copy of the latest Harry Potter).

With other transactions, though, comparison shopping is incredibly difficult. Either the item is unique, or it's made to seem that way by the sellers. Constant sales can offer further confusion: You know that other people aren't paying list price, but how much less should you really pay?

Here are five things that can be incredibly tough to shop for, and some suggestions for getting the best deal.


Most mattresses are relatively simple boxes made of springs, foam and fabric. That should make them commodities -- in other words, basically interchangeable -- and thus ideal for comparison shopping.

But manufacturers and retailers deliberately make comparison shopping for mattresses extremely difficult for consumers. The same mattress, perhaps with slightly different trim, fabric or quilt pattern, will have different model names at different retailers, making it tough to know if you're comparing apples to apples.

Prices are extremely fluid, which means the same basic box-spring-and-mattress set can cost hundreds of dollars more or less depending on the sale, the persuasiveness of the salesperson and your own negotiating prowess.

Here are some basics from Consumer Reports to help you navigate the minefield:

  • Reliability and durability of all brand-name mattresses -- Sealy, Serta, Simmons and Spring Air -- are typically very good. What matters most is comfort, and that's an individual thing.
  • Spend at least 15 minutes lying on any mattress you're considering buying to make sure it's comfortable for you in all positions.
  • Specialty mattresses from Duxiana, Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic are rarely discounted, but you should be able to get 50% off the list price of a conventional innerspring mattress if you wait for a sale or bargain hard.


Jewelry often has such huge markups -- 100% to 200% is routine -- that even seemingly blowout sale prices still leave plenty of retailer profit intact. Because of that, jewelry typically isn't an investment. Try to sell a piece back to a jeweler and you'll be lucky to get one-third of what you originally paid (if the jeweler will buy it at all).

There are also no rules about how much to spend on jewelry -- including engagement rings. The notion that people should spend two months' salary on a ring was a creation of clever marketers.

Also, few gemstones are entirely without flaws. An ethical jeweler should be able to point them out and discuss their effect on the stone's value.

To shop wisely for jewelry:

  • Understand that the big markups mean there's usually room to haggle down a price. Shoot for at least a 10% discount.
  • Make sure you're allowed at least 30 days to return jewelry for a refund.
  • Pay to have expensive jewelry evaluated by an appraiser not affiliated with the jeweler. Make sure the appraiser is certified by the American Society of Appraisers.

College educations

Most people don't pay the list price for college educations anymore.

About two-thirds of those who attend college get some kind of financial aid, and many colleges tweak their aid packages to benefit the students they most want to attract. If the marching band needs a talented flutist, for example, someone who fits the bill may get a financial-aid package loaded with "free money" -- grants and scholarships -- while a less-desired student with the same financial need might get loans.

Continued: What discounts to expect

The College Board says the typical private school discounts its costs by about a third, and public universities offer an average break of 14.7%. (See "Don't pay sticker price for college.")

"It is important to consider not just the net college cost, which is the difference between the cost of attendance and the financial-aid package, but also the out-of-pocket cost, which is the difference between the cost of attendance and grants and scholarships," said Mark Kantrowitz, editor of "Out-of-pocket cost is a more realistic measure of the actual amount the college will cost you."

To avoid overpaying for a college education, you'll want to:

  • Learn about the financial aid process and how to arrange your finances to get the best possible package. Some resources to check: MSN Money's Saving for College and Managing College Costs Decision Centers,'s financial-aid calculator and the book "FastWeb College Gold: The Step-by-Step Guide to Paying for College." Never assume that you won't qualify for aid, Kantrowitz said; the formulas for aid are complicated, and how they're applied can vary by school. Also, changing family circumstances and congressional changes to available aid can have a big impact on how much you get. Even if you don't have financial need, you'll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal student loan programs.
  • Cast a wide net when researching and applying to colleges so you can uncover the schools that really want you (or your student). You can start with MSN Money's College Search engine, but also check out the Managing College Costs Decision Center, which includes articles on good values in public and private colleges.
  • Make sure that if you do have to borrow money for school, you exhaust all federal student loan options first before resorting to private loans (read "How did student loans get so sleazy?" for details).

Cars and houses

Almost nobody negotiates half off a house or a car, but almost nobody pays sticker price, either. And because these are two of the biggest purchases most people make, it's worth going over the ground rules.

You know you shouldn't pay sticker price for a vehicle, but figuring out the "right" price -- and keeping to it in the face of an industry that specializes in getting people to overpay -- is a tall order. The second you drive a car off the dealer's lot, for example, it's worth only what someone will pay you for it, regardless of how big a rebate you got or how big a discount off sticker you negotiated. The closer you come to that price, the better the deal.

And even that swift bit of negotiation can be quickly erased in a few short minutes in the dealer's finance department. Similarly, you're not likely to make a bigger purchase than a home -- or have more of an opportunity to overpay.

Continued: Create a strategy

So, a few reminders on strategy:

Cars. Dealerships "know you're focused on the price of the car," said Philip Reed, consumer advice editor for and editor of the book "Strategies for Smart Car Buyers." "You need to know about the charges that are bogus or inflated at the many other steps of the deal."

If you really want to make sure you get the best deal, don't walk onto a car lot until you've:

  • Considered all your alternatives. The fewer times you buy a car in your lifetime, the more money you'll save. You may be able to get a few more years out of your current car or even do without a vehicle for a while. If you've decided you "need" a specific car, or even a car at all, you may be setting yourself up to overpay. Read "The real reason you're broke" for details.
  • Set up your financing. A credit union is typically a good place to find low-cost auto loans. Limit your loan term to four years with a 20% down payment, if at all possible, and make sure you can swing all the costs of the car (such as higher insurance payments).
  • Done your research. MSN Autos, among other sites, offers information about performance, reliability and safety. also has a "True Cost to Own" feature that can show you how much a vehicle is likely to cost you over five years. You can get detailed reports on vehicles, including how much the dealer paid, with Consumer Reports' auto price reports.
  • Prepared to walk out. The typical dealership will do everything in its power to keep you on the lot until you've signed the deal. They're hoping you'll fall in love with a car or be convinced the dealership is offering a one-time-only deal that will soon expire. Sometimes your most powerful negotiating tactic is the willingness to call their bluff, Reed said, and walk out the door. The deal may suddenly improve -- and if it doesn't, there's always the next dealership.

"Car sales (are) based on control. They want to know they control you," Reed said. "Any time you show the ability to walk out, you're taking back control."

Houses. Your two biggest enemies are your own emotions and a lack of information. You can help cure the latter with (as always) good research.

"Spend your weekends visiting open houses. Then, find a great agent, who really knows the neighborhood and its housing stock, and see even more properties that are for sale," advises Ilyce Glink, author of several books on real estate, including "100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask." "Track the sales prices of these homes and use that information as a tool to help unlock the value of other properties."

You also need to consider which way the market winds are blowing in your area: whether prices are going up, down or flattening.

"Once you figure out the direction the neighborhood is going," Glink said, "you can start to compare the value of one house to another, taking into account the differences in size, amenities, and specific location."

With this information, you can craft a bid. When multiple buyers are after the same property, you may have to make your best offer first; when home sales are slow or prices are dropping, it's often best to start with a bid that's lower than what you're actually willing to pay.As for your emotions, I won't advise you not to fall in love with a property. Love is too tricky a thing to predict or prevent, and once it hits you you'll know how tough it is to keep your head. Just try to keep in mind that there's more than one "right" house for you, and you won't have to bankrupt yourself to get it.

Columns by Liz Pulliam Weston, the Web's most-read personal finance writer, appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. She also answers reader questions on the Your Money message board.

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Shape of Coca-Cola bottle wins official trademark registration in Japan after court fight

AP Photo
AP Photo

TOKYO (AP) -- The familiar curvaceous shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is now officially registered as a trademark in Japan - this nation's first such recognition of a three-dimensional bottle form devoid of any lettering.

A Japanese court ruled Thursday in favor of Coca-Cola Co., the U.S. beverage maker, which had been demanding registration for its so-called "contour bottle" since 2003, Maki Morino, spokeswoman for the company's Japan unit, said Friday.

The Japanese Patent Office had previously refused the demand, although other shapes, including Kentuky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders, have won such registration in Japan.

The sticking point with the Coke bottle was that it was a container without any lettering that seemed to be similar to other bottles, said Patent Office spokesman Yoshihisa Ariga.

Other companies such as Japanese brewery Suntory Ltd. and health drink maker Yakult Honsha Co. have sought to register the bottle shapes of their products but were turned down, he said.

The Patent Office needs to study the Tokyo High Court ruling, and has not yet decided whether it will appeal, said Ariga.

Coca-Cola's case got a boost because the company stuck to the same design since the start of the product, in 1916, and the iconic shape - inspiring the artwork of Andy Warhol and movies such as "The Gods Must Be Crazy" - is widely recognized.

The bottle became a registered trademark in the U.S. in 1960, and is likewise honored in Russia, Great Britain, China and other nations, according to Coca-Cola.

Japan's latest move will further strengthen the prevention of unlawful imitations here, although laws have existed from before under which Japan can crack down on blatant copycat products, the Patent Office and Coca-Cola said.

Coca-Cola has been sold in Japan since 1956.

"The ruling marks a meaningful step for Japan in recognizing trademarks," Morino said.

Another trademark for a shape awarded after a similar controversy in Japan, in June last year, was also American - the Maglite flashlight.

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Dow Chemical Hikes Prices 20 Pct

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dow Chemical Co , the biggest U.S. chemical manufacturer, said on Wednesday it would raise prices for all products by up to 20 percent, the latest signal that escalating energy prices were stoking inflation.

Chief Executive Andrew Liveris, long a critic of U.S. energy policy, said the U.S. government's failure to push through new energy policy is hurting domestic manufacturing and killing demand.

"For years, Washington has failed to address the issue of rising energy costs and, as a result, the country now faces a true energy crisis, one that is causing serious harm to America's manufacturing sector and all consumers of energy," Liveris said in a statement.

Dow said the price increases will take effect on June 1 for all its chemicals and plastics, used in thousands of products from paints and adhesives to insecticides and packaging.

The move came as little surprise to industry watchers since prices for natural gas, a key chemical industry feedstock, have jumped by 56 percent since the end of 2007, and crude oil prices have risen 32 percent to above $125 per barrel.

"What Dow's doing does help give headline support, but everybody has been doing it anyway," First Analysis Securities analyst Steven Schwartz said.

Albemarle Corp , Nalco Holding Co and Praxair Inc are among the U.S. chemicals and industrial gases companies to announce price increases in recent months.

Chemicals maker Rohm and Haas Co last month said it would apply an indexed raw material and energy surcharge to a variety of products. The index will be adjusted up or down monthly, based on the collective changes in key raw material, crude oil and natural gas costs.

Schwartz said the Rohm and Haas pricing initiative might receive less resistance from customers, as it is transparent and objective.

"Just a general price increase can come across to customers as arbitrary and subjective, of course it is not always transparent either," Schwartz said.

The success of Dow's price increases will also depend on the actions of its competing suppliers.

"So much will depend on what Dow's competitors do," said BB&T Capital Markets analyst Frank Mitsch. "Given the raw material inflationary environment, I would guess that most of their competitors will match them."


The price rises will hurt some sectors more than others. Makers of plastic packaging like Sealed Air Corp and Bemis Co , which have already seen profits hurt by higher resin costs, are likely to see cost pressures mount.

Paints and adhesives manufacturers are also likely to feel the pinch, as chemical costs form a large portion of their overall expenditure.

The price increases by Dow and others are also likely to exacerbate the pain for consumer goods makers already hurt by a slowing U.S. economy and a slump in the U.S. housing market.

In an interview with Reuters last week, Liveris hinted that the company was on the verge of announcing price increases, while cautioning that inflationary pressures on consumers have reached the point where they are clearly changing behavior.

"The weakness in the United States economy in housing that we have read about for over a year, (along) with the mortgage crises and credit crunch, was one blow. But oil is another blow, and it's probably one blow too many," he said.

In 2007, Dow's feedstock and energy costs rose by $2.5 billion to $24.6 billion, accounting for about half its total costs. Dow said its cost of energy and feedstocks surged 42 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, and the jump in crude oil and natural gas prices was continuing.

The Midland, Michigan-based company has sought to combat high energy prices by forming joint ventures with companies in the Middle East and North Africa that have access to cheaper raw materials.

Dow will continue its cost-control measures, Liveris said, and accelerate a "top-down competitiveness review" for all its businesses and manufacturing facilities because of the jump in energy prices.

Shares of Dow rose 1 percent to $40.64 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Braden Reddall)

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Visiting Bobo- A Child Soldier Turned Business Owner


Last week, fellow ONE field organizer Kim Smith and I traveled with FORGE to the Meheba Refugee Camp in northern Zambia.

In addition to building the world’s largest library in a refugee camp, schools, a women’s center, and assistance for refugees, FORGE, also has a micro-finance project that works to empower refugees and help with business skills.

Recently, the FORGE Microfinance Institute helped invest in agricultural loans to select farming refugees and provided much needed and expensive fertilizer for corn crops. Already is has proven to be a huge success as the farmers that received the fertilizer loan are having record corn growth.

We also paid a visit to another loan recipient, Bobo, a former child solider turned baker. The first day we stopped in at his bakery, Bobo was not there and we were told that he closed his shop to travel around and stock up on corn and flour. The next day we returned and we spoke with him about his business.

Originally Bobo received a small loan to start his business. He did very well and when his rent went up in the market, he applied for another loan to build his own free standing bakery that allowed him to be profitable, pay back his loans, and provide for his wife and daughter. When we asked about the global food crisis and rising prices, Bobo took out all of his receipts and showed us the dramatic increase in the price of corn and flour. Being a successful baker and businessman, Bobo was fortunate enough to be able to stock up on his ingredients as prices continue to rise.

-Matthew Bartlett, ONE Field Organizer

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6 Dream Jobs Every Guy Wants

We are big believers in the perpetual pursuit of your perfect dream job.

And although superhero and astronaut might be out of your league, there are plenty of cool jobs out there you may be uniquely qualified for.

CareerBuilder first assembled the big list of interesting jobs and interviewed these fine gentlemen, but now after careful analysis and prolonged meditation we present to you the 6 coolest dream jobs:

1. Brew Master - Salary: $30,000-$60,000 per year

Jonathan Cutler creates recipes and brews the restaurant’s beer selection at Piece Pizza, a Chicago-based pizzeria. He is the resident brewmaster.

Cutler started home brewing back in college, and completed a brewer training program after graduation. He refined his skills by going to as many beer tastings as he could. It’s not all drinking delicious beers and getting drunk though.

"Right now I'm drenched in sweat, I've got malt all over me and I'm wearing coveralls -- and the brewery is about 100 degrees," Cutler said.

Every guy has his own favorite beer and the world can never have too much of God’s nectar, so why not start on your path to becoming a legendary brew-Master of the Universe?

2. Casino Host - Salary: $15 per hour and up

The casino host is one of the few guys you actually like at a casino. He’s there to make the guest feel comfortable and will ‘comp’ a few drinks and maybe a few rooms. He’ll book your hotel reservations and probably collect some big tips.

At Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino, there is a casino host on duty 24 hours per day. Eleftherios "Lefty" Mastorakis, executive host at Mohegan Sun, comes in at noon each day and spends the next eight hours or so checking messages from patrons and monitoring the gambling floor to deal with any requests that come up.

Mastorakis entered the casino business after high school and has held a variety of roles over the last 10 years. Lefty smartly does not himself indulge in gambling.

3. Ice Cream Creator - Salary: Food scientists average $56,600 a year

Derek Spors is one of those noble men who laid down his tastebuds to bring you the finest of Ben and Jerry’s. He refers to himself as an "ice cream scientologist" and senior product developer for Ben and Jerry's, where he is responsible for creating (and tasting) new flavors.

To be honest, he should probably drop that scientologist thing to avoid any confusion.

Spors will go around sampling ice cream flavors at many local restaurants and combines them in the lab.

And don’t worry about turning into a huge fat-ass on the job too. You only really have to taste a spoonful. It’s way better than being involved in those dreaded ice cream truck wars.

4. Toy Creator - Salary: Commercial and industrial designers earn an average salary of about $57,000 a year

Toy designers, also known as industrial designers, are the only single guys who can have a roomful of kid’s toys in their bedroom without being considered a pedophile.

This job entails combining your artistic talent with research to create the most appealing, fun and functional toys possible.

Fraser Campbell designs Hot Wheels toy cars. Sometimes he's creating control drawings or designing the vehicles, and other times involve administrative work like e-mails, commenting on designs and scheduling meetings.

Campbell said he always knew he wanted to be a car designer, and he planned his educational path accordingly -- attending an art foundation, getting a bachelor's degree in product design and earning a master's degree in industrial design.

Imagine getting paid to build sick car ramps and see how well they can hold up to an impromptu ‘Godzilla’ attack.

5. Video Game Designer - Salary: Starts around $25,000 with high growth potential

Jon Paquette is in the business of video games: He's the design director and writer for the Medal of Honor Airborne game for EA Los Angeles.

Paquette works with the company's development team, overseeing all design ideas and implementation. Sometimes this means days of meetings. Other days, he'll be at a desk reviewing level designs.

Seems like there is bureaucracy at every job. How bad could it be if you’re wearing one of those motion-capture suits and diving onto a stunt mat?

If you watch a lot of day-time or late-night TV you know that every DeVry or ITT Tech ad is trying to get you to enroll in one of their video game design programs. And although you probably won’t do much designing without a 4-year degree, it’ll still be cool to be so close to ‘the magic’.

6. Comic Book Guru – Salary: Entry-level pay starts around $20,000

Not all adult comic book gurus are as pretentious and overweight as the Simpson’s ‘Comic Book Guy’.

Josh Blaylock, for example, seems like a totally decent guy. He is the founder and president of comics publisher Devil's Due Publishing. He was always a big comic book fan and decided as a teenager to go to art school to pursue that dream.

After working as a comic book writer and artist, Blaylock started Devil's Due Publishing in 1999 and put the company on the map two years later when he resurrected the GI Joe comic series. Now he spends his days managing the day-to-day operations of his company, traveling to acquire new licenses, and reading plenty of comics.

Obviously with such mega-blockbusters as Spiderman, Ironman, and the much anticipated Dark Knight, the world of comic books is proving to be more profitable than ever. And, to be honest, we need more decent superhero characters to capture our imaginations. The days of weird anime and creepy Manga cartoons have gone on long enough.

So if these dream jobs seem like your cup of tea, then go for it. You’ll only have yourself to blame when 10 years from now your neighbor’s name is plastered all over Grand Theft Auto 9.

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Teacher's sex-ed talk riles parents

A group of Herriman parents who claim a middle school health teacher gave students information about sex that isn't allowed under state law are working with a lawmaker to seek criminal penalties for such behavior.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, opened a bill file this week and said he will introduce legislation in January that would enforce criminal penalties on teachers who deviate from state law governing sex education, which requires that it focus on physical and emotional development of adolescents, healthy relationships and the threat and prevention of diseases. The law prohibits promoting or encouraging sexual behavior. His bill also would create a registry to record the names of teachers who violate the law.
"Right now what a teacher is allowed to teach regarding sex education is very clearly defined in statute. The problem is that if a teacher violates that law or if an administrator allows that law to be violated, the only repercussion is administrative," Wimmer said.
Wimmer said he decided to act after hearing this week from parents about an incident at Fort Herriman Middle School. The Jordan School District is investigating allegations that a seventh- and eighth-grade health teacher violated the sex education statute by responding to questions from students about topics beyond the core curriculum, including homosexual sex, oral sex and masturbation.

School staff met with parents Wednesday and Thursday to describe the investigation process, and told them the teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave, probably through the end of the school year.
"The district is conducting an investigation and they are taking this extremely serious," Principal Michael Sirois said. "My job is to get all the information together."
The teacher retired after 30 years in another district and was in her first year at Fort Herriman, according to Melinda Colton, spokeswoman for the Jordan district.
Attempts to reach the teacher Thursday were unsuccessful.
Thursday morning, students put up signs at the school supporting the teacher that read, "We were the ones asking her questions."
Sirois said he took down the signs because he does not want the matter to become divisive while it is still under investigation.
"I'm really angry right now. I want someone to apologize to those kids and say 'I'm sorry this is not part of the curriculum,' " said Sara Dewitt, a parent who said she first heard about the teacher's comments from her child last Friday.
Dewitt called other parents in the area to inform them what she had learned from her son and advised them to talk to their own children.
Dewayne Smith, who is also the parent of an eighth-grade student at Fort Herriman, said he believes parents want the investigation to take its course so there can be a fair and equitable resolution.
A group of about 50 parents has unofficially organized to make sure there are checks and balances in the process.
"We are the parents. . . . We will require accountability on the part of the district," Smith said.

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Are Ahmadinejad's Days Numbered?

Press conference of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.
Gamma / Eyedea / Zuma

Ali Larijani projected a presidential bearing as he accepted his election as speaker of Iran's parliament on Wednesday — a vote that boded ill for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Larijani, a high-profile arch-rival of the President, addressed global themes in his address to the opening session of the Majlis, dressing down the International Atomic Energy Agency and praising Hizballah. Despite the tough talk that was welcomed by some of the legislators with shouts of "God is great!" and "Death to America!" Larijani received a congratulatory call from European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana — an old negotiating partner. While Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium unites all major factions in the country, Larijani represents a more pragmatic approach to handling the issue, aimed at finding agreement with the West and avoiding confrontation.

Larijani's stunning return to center stage in Iranian politics makes two things clear: President Ahmadinejad's hold on power is slipping badly, and next year's Iranian presidential election race is now wide open. Winning 232 votes after persuading an Ahmadinejad ally, former Speaker Gholamali Haddad-Adel, to step aside, Larijani is poised to make the position a dynamic power center in Iranian politics, and perhaps even a personal launch pad for challenging Ahmadinejad's bid for a second term of office.

"You're going to see Larijani as a very active and confident speaker," a Tehran analyst told TIME. His comeback has underscored the increasing fragility of Ahmadinejad's authority in the country; less than a year ago, the President had effectively forced Larijani out of his senior post as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Iran's top nuclear negotiator.

Ahmadinejad's defeat in the Majlis is the latest sign of the ferment within Iran's ruling conservative coalition, which dominates the legislature. Larijani engineered two impressive political victories, first to win a seat in the 290-member assembly, and then to oust a sitting speaker. Prominent politicians and clerical figures have begun distancing themselves from Ahmadinejad and rallying around Larijani. The shift reflects the fact that Ahmadinejad has alienated many in his own conservative camp with an arrogant personal style and erratic economic and foreign policies. While he still enjoys solid popular support, many Iranians bitterly complain that inflation and unemployment have left the economy in a shambles despite record oil revenues. Says commentator Azar Mansuri: "The gap between rich and poor has become wider. Criticism of the government is growing by the day."

Larijani, despite his opening-day rhetoric against the IAEA, is widely viewed as the standard-bearer within the conservative establishment for pragmatism in domestic and foreign affairs. Besides serving in security posts, he is a former minister of culture and headed Iranian state television for a decade. A vital point of difference is that while Ahmadinejad has taken a provocative stance in the now-suspended negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, Larijani believes Iran's interests are better served with a constructive dialogue aimed at building Western confidence that Iran's uranium-enrichment activities will not be diverted into the construction of nuclear weapons. Interviewed on Iranian TV's Outlook One program two weeks ago, Larijani reiterated that "everyone should try to start the negotiations" to resolve the dispute over Iran's program.

Despite the groundswell of support, some Iranian insiders believe that Larijani will ultimately prefer to remain as parliament speaker rather than risk losing to Ahmadinejad in the '09 race. "He may see that he has little chance of being elected President, and that it's better to exercise influence as the head of one of the branches of government," a Tehran analyst told TIME. More an intellectual than a politician — he wrote a doctoral thesis on German philosophy — Larijani finished near the bottom in the 2005 multi-candidate election that brought Ahmadinejad to power.

Even then, his comeback proves there is deep discontent within conservative circles over Ahmadinejad's leadership, and raises the likelihood that the incumbent will be strongly challenged by another leading conservative presidential candidate. Among those contenders may be the popular mayor of Tehran, Mohammed-Baqer Qalibaf, who has criticized Ahmadinejad's belligerent foreign policy statements and mishandling of the Iranian economy. Ahmadinejad seems to recognize the shifting winds; he let it be known that he, too, preferred his bitter rival Larijani over Haddad-Adel in the speaker contest.

Because Larijani's political comback certainly had the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei — who wields executive power in Iran — an analyst in Tehran told TIME it signals that Khamenei, the ultimate arbiter in Iranian politics, may be prepared to sanction challenges to Ahmadinejad's reelection next year. Whether or not Larijani becomes a presidential candidate, he is likely to use his high-profile post as parliamentary speaker to question Ahmadinejad's policies and offer alternatives. That, along with Khamenei's ambivalence about Ahmadinejad's political future, could weaken the incumbent's authority and prepare the ground for his defeat at the polls next summer.

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Spit Can Be A Deadly Weapon

No one likes to become recipient of a spit projectile. That is unless of course you are swapping it with your significant other. Sharing with your girlfriend or boyfriend certainly is not a crime either. Sharing it with that drunk girl or guy you met in a bar is not a crime. Two days later , not even remembering the encounter you get a call from the Health Department that a known serial HIV boinker or TB(Tuberculosis) carrier was making his/her rounds through the Dallas Bars that night mugging down with every available mouth to be found looking for that one lucky guy to spend the night with. She just left your place an hour ago. You thought you were special!

The two most logical questions are, first can you contract HIV or TB that way and is it a crime to spit on someone knowing you are a carrier?

At least as to the HIV issue, the a Dallas, Texas jury have said that spitting on someone knowing you are HIV positive is a crime.

Two weeks ago A homeless man who spit in the mouth and eye of a police officer and then taunted him, saying he was H.I.V. positive, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday for harassing a public servant with a deadly weapon: his saliva. The key part of this ruling was the finding that the spit should be classified as a deadly weapon.

We will put aside the fact that the guy got 35 years for it. He severity of the sentence was affected by the fact that he was convicted under a “habitual offender statute“. He had been convicted of attacking other officers in in a similar manner as well as more than two dozen other offenses. This mandated a minimum of 25 years without regards to the HIV issue. Lets take the fact that it was a cop out of it as well and get down to the basic issue at hand:

“If you are a carrier of a deadly disease that may in very rare circumstances be transmitted by your spit, does that make your spit a “deadly weapon” under the law? If you say yes, does that not open up a whole “Pandora’s Box” of criminal responsbility?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H.I.V. is primarily spread through sexual contact or the exchange of blood. Although there have been rare cases of transmission through severe bites, “contact with saliva, tears or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of H.I.V.,” the agency reports. You can read the CDC fact sheet on HIV transmission here.

So we know right there through hard stats that there have been no known cases of HIV being transmitted through simple contact with saliva. Does that mean it can not happen? I guess you never say never but the odds are remote in the extreme. But when we allow a remote “struck by lightning” possibility to justify a “deadly weapon” finding, are we hearkening back to the AID paranoia days of toilets seats and drinking glasses? Was this conviction based on ignorance or science?

If we accept that premise that spit can be a deadly weapon, we also have to accept that the HIV carrier who lets you take a sip of his beer or coke has just committed a crime. If he had evil intent in letting you share the drink, would not the crime be the same taking out the public servant element? If he simply was not thinking about it or paying attention to his drink has he/she committed a crime? You can see where this has the potential to go. The slope gets very slippery. Will it even stop with HIV?

Everyone remembers Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta Lawyer with Multi-Drug resistant TB who got on several crowded planes knowing he had the disease and in fact having been advised not to travel without a mask. We know that TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. Amid all the hysteria, I don’t remember hearing much talk about whether any crimes were committed by Mr. Speaker. Did he commit any crimes? He certainly didn’t intend to hurt anyone but intent is not necessarily an element of possible crimes on the books that either he or the HIV carrier sharing the beer may have committed.

You can read the CDC fact sheet on multi-drug resistant TB here.

There is also a crime in many if not all states called Reckless Endangerment.

The general definition of reckless endangerment(this can an will vary by state) is as follows:

“A person commits the crime of reckless endangerment if the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. “Reckless” conduct is conduct that exhibits a culpable disregard of foreseeable consequences to others from the act or omission involved. The accused need not intentionally cause a resulting harm or know that his conduct is substantially certain to cause that result. The ultimate question is whether, under all the circumstances, the accused’s conduct was of that heedless nature that made it actually or imminently dangerous to the rights or safety of others.”

Now that you know this, does your opinion change? Is not the issue is what and what is not “reasonably foreseeable” in these situations? Is it reasonably foreseeable you would contract HIV? Is it reasonably foreseeable you would contract T.B.?

I would frankly argue that Andrew Speaker’s conduct had a greater degree of foreseeability as to the consequences than the homeless guy spitting on a cop. What about beer bottle Sallie the HIV carrier and serial make out artist.

Are we verging on criminalizing ignorance as compared to criminal intent or reckless disregard?

What do you think?

(Please note that the Dallas case is currently up on appeal with one of the issues being the classification of saliva as a “deadly weapon”


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